Proving again that in the age of Obama, some conservative pundits just can't resist giving comfort to fringy conspiracy theorists, the Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan over the weekend blamed the president for stoking the nutty fires that burn around the story of Osama bin Laden's death. Rather than condemning the kind of connect-the-invisible-dots nonsense that now consumes the far-right fever swamp, Noonan opts to blame the victim, Obama.
Coming in the wake of recent birther debacle, it seems Obama's partisan press critics didn't learn a thing about the dangers of hyping a deluded conspiracy theory. (Paging Donald Trump….) More distressing in terms of Noonan's column is how she casually tries to mainstream the conspiracy madness that's infected the conservative movement by suggesting everybody does it.
They don't. But Obama haters sure do.
In a May 5 Wall Street Journal column headlined, "Show the Proof, Mr. President," Peggy Noonan criticized President Obama over his decision not to release photos of Osama bin Laden's body, claiming that it is evidence of Obama's "chronic tendency to misunderstand his own country" and that Obama is "letting a triumph turn into a conspiracy theory."
From Noonan's column:
However, and with our president there is always a however, he has spent almost every moment since his Sunday night speech displaying both a tin ear and a chronic tendency to misunderstand his own country. His refusal to release more evidence that Osama is dead is allowing a great story to dissolve into a mystery. He is letting a triumph turn into a conspiracy theory.
Here is the fact of the age: People believe nothing. They think everything is spin and lies. The minute a government says A is true, half the people on Earth know A is a lie. And when people believe nothing, as we know, they will believe anything. We faked the moon landing, there was a second gunman in Dallas, the World Trade Center was blown up in a U.S.-Zionist conspiracy, Hitler grew old in Argentina.
There will always be people who believe conspiracy theories, and with the Internet there will be more. They are impervious to evidence. But people who care about the truth need to be armed with evidence to refute them.
Mr. Obama misunderstands all this. He tells Steve Croft Sunday on Sixty Minutes that showing photos of the dead Osama would be to "spike the football." "We don't trot this stuff out as trophies." Trophies? Who does he think we are?
It's not about pride, it's about proof. "We got him, shot him and immediately threw him in the sea" is not enough. The U.S. government should release all the evidence it has that does not compromise security.
In the wake of Obama's State of the Union Address last week, there have been some rather childish games played by his media critics who turned SOTU reaction photos into failed attempts of gotcha. Even more distressing, the partisan attacks weren't plotted by online pests but by columnists for two of the largest newspapers in America.
First, the Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan did not like Obama's SOTU last week, although the former Reagan speechwriter claimed she really, really wanted to. (Whatever you say, Peggy.) But how could Noonan support her claim that Obama's "unserious" speech feel flat when poll after poll showed viewers pretty much loved Obama's national address?
Noonan's play was to announce members of Congress were bored by the speech:
Response in the chamber was so muted as to be almost Xanax-like. Did you see how bored and unengaged they looked?
And to prove that the chamber response was "muted," the WSJ published this photo to accompany Noonan's column:
Get it? While listening to an hour-long policy speech, some members of Congress kind of looked bored. That's the proof Noonan presented to back up her claim that Obama fell flat. That, despite the fact that overwhelming majorities of viewers told pollsters they liked the speech.
Meanwhile, matching Noonan's failed attempt at a game of photo gotcha was former Laura Bush flak, Andrew Malcolm at the Los Angeles Times, who was eager to suggest Obama's speech put at last one prominent audience member to sleep. To prove his point, Malcolm published this photo of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:
The caption claimed Ginsberg was in "VERY DEEP THOUGHTZ." Ha-ha! Get it? She snoozed through Obama's SOTU, was the clear implication.
But did she? Malcolm has no idea. Instead, the photo he trotted out captured a split-second image from an hour-long speech. And during that hour-long speech is it possible Ginsburg cast her eyes downward? Of course it is. But the chronically un-serious Malcolm wanted to pretend Ginsburg fell asleep even though he couldn't find a photo to prove his juvenile point. So instead he published a photo of her looking down and pretended that proved his pointless point.
Honestly, if Noonan and Malcolm had anything serious to say about the SOTU they should have said it. Playing games with crowd reaction photos however, is probably the least serious way to critique a policy address.
As her latest Wall Street Journal column attests, Peggy Noonan, the loyal GOP writer, cannot be bothered with facts or common sense when arguing her points. In this case it's being in favor of extending the Bush tax cuts for the very rich. Noonan also cannot be bothered with polling. Apparently she just knows the way Americans feel; and doesn't need silly surveys to tell her that:
Here is a reading on the psychology of higher national taxes at this particular moment. The American people know, and have made clear they know, that the great issue is spending.
According to Noonan, spending, and indirectly the deficit, represent "the great issue." The American people know that, says Noonan.
Except that, apparently they don't actually think that.
Fact: A handful of recent polls (CBS, CNN, Pew Research Center) indicate that in terms of the top priority facing the country today, managing the deficit averages a response rate of about 10 percent. It's certainly not a top priority and it's not "the great issue." But Noonan wants to pretend it is, so she ignores the polling and makes her own grand pronouncements.
And that's what she does here, arguing Obama should extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone, including the very rich:
He should confound everyone, and give a headache to his foes, by bowing to the spirit of 2010 and accepting the Bush tax cuts, top to bottom. It would be electrifying. It would seem responsive, and impress the center.
How that would impress "the center" if the American center is opposed to the GOP plan to extend Bush tax cuts for the very rich, Noonan never explains. Again, she just knows.
Meanwhile, behold the other argument Noonan makes for continuing deep tax cuts for the nation's most wealthy:
If we instead refuse to raise taxes right now, we will be setting a stage in which cuts in federal spending are the only path. Cutting spending will seem inevitable, like something that will actually happen. This will give rise to hope. There's a way out! We can do it!
Let's just take a moment to marvel at Noonan's loopy logic and ponder what it means for a political and media movement when one of its supposedly serious thinkers traffics in nonsense like this.
The Wall Street Journal columnist in the past has been very clear that civility is a must in our public discourse. The partisan Republican writer routinely condemned what she thought were out-of-bounds liberal attacks on the Bush administration; attacks, we were told, that crossed all kinds of lines and that came from the president's unhinged critics who were trying to stifle free speech.
But gee, during the Obama years, when her right-wing media colleagues have shredded all guidelines for decency in terms of their attack on the Oval Office, Noonan has remained (mostly) mum. Noonan plays dumb on an epic scale about the complete, and purposeful lack of respect that now drives the far-right media. Noonan's reluctant to call out the hate mongers on the right who now treat the POTUS as a punk and a dog.
Apparently for Noonan, when Democrats are in the Oval Office civility isn't so important. Rather, raw anger is to be celebrated as a true expression of democracy by "concerned" citizens. The hypocrisy is hard to miss. (In fact, last year Noonan lectured Democrats that they were the ones being "unhelpfully divisive and provocative.")
But luckily for Noonan, Limbaugh has provided the columnist with the perfect opportunity to be intellectual honest, because yesterday the AM talker unleashed a schoolyard taunt, calling Obama, among other things, a "jackass." Clearly Noonan won't stand for that kind of incivility, right?
Because remember that back in March, Noonan issued this warning:
[O]ne immediate thing can be done right now, and that is: lower the temperature. Any way you can, and everybody. Just lower it.
Does calling the President of the United States a "jackass" help lower the temperature? If not, will Noonan finally stand up and say so?
In her Wall Street Journal column, Peggy Noonan falsely claimed that EPA administrator Lisa Jackson "went to a New York fund-raiser in the middle of the [Gulf oil spill] disaster." In fact, Jackson canceled her appearance at the fundraiser, which she had reportedly scheduled weeks before the oil spill.
From Noonan's March 18 Wall Street Journal column:
Now for the Slaughter
On the road to Demon Pass, our leader encounters a Baier.
Thursday's decision followed the most revealing and important broadcast interview of Barack Obama ever. It revealed his primary weakness in speaking of health care, which is a tendency to dodge, obfuscate and mislead. He grows testy when challenged. It revealed what the president doesn't want revealed, which is that he doesn't want to reveal much about his plan. This furtiveness is not helpful in a time of high public anxiety. At any rate, the interview was what such interviews rarely are, a public service. That it occurred at a high-stakes time, with so much on the line, only made it more electric.
I'm speaking of the interview Wednesday on Fox News Channel's "Special Report With Bret Baier." Fox is owned by News Corp., which also owns this newspaper, so one should probably take pains to demonstrate that one is attempting to speak with disinterest and impartiality, in pursuit of which let me note that Glenn Beck has long appeared to be insane.
That having been said, the Baier interview was something, and right from the beginning. Mr. Baier's first question was whether the president supports the so-called Slaughter rule, alternatively known as "deem and pass," which would avoid a straight up-or-down House vote on the Senate bill. (Tunku Varadarajan in the Daily Beast cleverly notes that it sounds like "demon pass," which it does. Maybe that's the juncture we're at.) Mr. Obama, in his response, made the usual case for ObamaCare. Mr. Baier pressed him. The president said, "The vote that's taken in the House will be a vote for health-care reform." We shouldn't, he added, concern ourselves with "the procedural issues."
Peggy Noonan falsely claimed that "Congress' own budget office is saying" that the health care reform bill "is gonna have a very bad effect on the American economy." In fact, Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Elmendorf has said the CBO has not yet evaluated "the broad economic effects" of the bill.
Several conservative commentators have publically criticized conservative media figures and Republican politicians for deeming President Obama's reaction to unfolding events in Iran to be overly cautious, including The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, who called such criticisms, "Aggressive Political Solipsism at work."
In her online column, The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan wrote that Sen. Barack Obama's DNC speech at Denver's Invesco Field "has every possibility of looking like a Nuremberg rally." Other conservative pundits have made references to Nazis when talking about Obama or discussing his speeches, including radio host Tom Sullivan, who once aired what he called a "side-by-side comparison" of an Adolf Hitler speech and an Obama speech.
In her column, Peggy Noonan asked of Barack Obama: "What does he think of America ... Who would have taught him to love it, and what did he learn was loveable, and what does he think about it all?" But Obama's latest book -- The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream -- is all about "[w]hat ... he think[s] of America."
While discussing Sen. Barack Obama, The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan said, "Remember that thing Mrs. Clinton said where she was asked, 'Do you think he's a Christian?' And she said one of those formulations like 'Oh, as far as I know, look into it.' " MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski replied, "Wink-wink, yeah." In fact, during an interview on CBS' 60 Minutes, Clinton was not asked, "Do you think he's a Christian?" -- when asked, "You don't believe that Senator Obama is a Muslim?" she immediately responded, "Of course not." Moreover, she compared "ridiculous rumors" circulating about her to rumors about Obama, making clear that the Obama rumors are false.
Discussing "dynasticism" on NBC's Meet the Press, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan asserted that "this Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton" is a "sickness" that "is giving so many people pause." But when asked how they felt about members of the Bush and Clinton families holding the presidency for nearly 20 years, 50 percent of respondents in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll said it "doesn't really make much difference."